Theodore Trefon is senior researcher at the Royal Museum for Central Africa and author of the blog Congo Masquerade: The political culture of aid inefficiency and reform failure.
Goma lies at the foot of an active volcano in the Democratic Republic of Congo and on the border with Rwanda. It matters today because it testifies to the powerlessness of the Congolese government and the United Nations to stop fighting and tit-for-tat violence.
The border city also matters because it could be an indicator of the unravelling of the Rwandan president’s authority. In Rwanda, President Paul Kagame is under pressure from hardliners frustrated by the continued presence of opposition forces who have found sanctuary on the Congolese side of the border.
President Kagame is also increasingly seen as an embarrassment to touchy foreign partners. M23 rebels have now entered Goma; the governor of North Kivu has fled to Bukavu by boat and hundreds of thousands of people are fleeing the city helter-skelter without having anywhere to go.
War, rape and the illegal extraction of minerals – an old story – matter more and more.
M23, also known as the Congolese Revolution Army, is alleged to be the newest avatar of Rwandan support for Tutsi rebellions in eastern DR Congo.
The rebel fighters defected from the Congolese army in April this year because of pressure on the Congolese government to arrest Gen Bosco Ntaganda who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes.
The recent fighting for Goma can be directly traced to this decision.
It also results from the symbolic and strategic importance the city and region have in the intricate Kigali-Kinshasa balance of power.
Some 20,000 UN blue helmets with a $1.5bn (£943m) annual budget have not been able to stop the fighting. The peacekeeping force – Monusco – has ordered the evacuation of its non-essential staff.
UN resolutions taken in New York have little impact on rebels or their backers.
Rwanda is not bowing down to Paris, Brussels, Washington or London.
The small East African nation, the donor darling of the post-genocide years, raises an interesting paradox.
Development aid it has received has been used efficiently but the creation of Mr Kagame’s benign dictatorship is having unforeseen side effects in eastern DR Congo.
For the rest of this article, please go to the BBC News Africa website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-20415534